COAPRT Chair Michael Blazey

February 1, 2013, Department, by Danielle Taylor

COAPRT Chair Michael Blazey shares his thoughts on the current state of parks and recreation and the role university programs play in the development of quality professionals for the field.Although California State University, Long Beach professor Michael Blazey no longer teaches on a regular basis, online course reviews from former students clearly demonstrate his passion for educating the next generation of park and recreation professionals. Now serving as CSULB’s director of academic facilities and assistant dean in the College of Liberal Arts, Blazey, who has been an NRPA member since 1974, also plays an important role for park and recreation college programs nationwide as chair of NRPA’s Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Related Professions. Here, he shares his insight on the state of park and recreation educational programs in the U.S. and challenges he sees for the future of the field.

How did you first become involved in the academic field of recreation and leisure studies?
My career began as recreation superintendent for the City of Brookings, South Dakota, home of South Dakota State University. I was invited to teach the recreation administration course in their developing recreation degree program. Using professional experiences as course content illustrations resonated with the students, and I enjoyed the interaction. With a master’s degree from SDSU in hand, I accepted my first full-time teaching assignment at Kansas State University.

How did you first become involved in COAPRT?
Much like current Council members and colleagues who preceded us, I became involved by working on accreditation at my home institution. At that time, the Council recommended at least one faculty member from programs seeking accreditation participate in visitor training. (We now require it.) That training put me on the list of eligible visitors, and my first visitation was in 1993. My 2005 Council appointment was to complete the unexpired term of Dr. J. Robert Rossman.

What does your role as COAPRT chair involve?
Officially (per our bylaws), the Council chair conducts Council hearings and business meetings, chairs the Executive Committee, signs official communications, serves as the official spokesperson, serves as the liaison to the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), and monitors CHEA standards. Then there are a number of “other duties as assigned.” The Council chair conducts a preliminary review of every accreditation self-study before requesting that the staff liaison forward the files to the Council lead, second, and associate evaluator, and authorizing visitations to proceed. The chair also works with the Executive Committee and NRPA staff liaison to prepare meeting agendas, draft Council minutes, finalize hearing action reports, assign visitation teams, and distribute communications to COAPRT stakeholders.

What is the biggest issue facing parks and recreation college educational programs today?
Today’s problems are not unlike those faced by programs over the past 40 years. Periods of economic downturn and the resulting financial exigency in higher education lead administrators to consider whether programs are essential to the institutional mission. Absent an understanding of parks, recreation, tourism, and related specializations, university administrators are likely to target these programs for resource reductions at best and elimination at worst. Such occasions provide opportunities to demonstrate the value of COAPRT accreditation. A number of programs have benefited from timely accreditation visits when administrators are presented with comprehensive self-studies and external program reviews. The Council’s 2013 implementation of learning outcome standards and their assessment now results in program reviews that have the added benefit of conforming to current practices in academic administration.

Interview byDanielle Taylor, Associate Editor of Parks & Recreation (dtaylor@nrpa.org).